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While this year’s draft class is full of talented outside rushers, there was an inside linebacker that stood out most to me in Mobile.  It was former Miami Hurricane Denzel Perryman.  Although he denzelpmissed the Wednesday practice, the backer came back and made quite the impression on me.  Perhaps it’s because I played the same position while being undersized too.  After viewing nine of his college games against South Carolina, Duke, Nebraska, Louisville, Florida State (both 2013 and 2014), Virginia, Virginia Tech, and Florida, his skills and talents that he brings to the NFL were clearly visible.   Here is what I saw:

ILB Denzel Perryman, Miami 5′ 10 5/8″ 242 lbs.

Cons: The Senior Bowl weigh-in gave scouts the first chink in the armor of the backer, Perryman is not six feet tall.  This limits him in being able to see plays develop at the line of scrimmage when he can’t see around the offensive line.  Of course, the linebacker can watch and anticipate where the linemen are going, so he can overcome this limitation.  But this does leave him flat-footed when reverses and trick plays get called.  Perryman is not silky smooth dropping back into pass coverage and gives an occasion false step.  That isn’t to say he cannot make up for his errors, but it isn’t a strength.  The defender wasn’t effective when he rushed on designed run blitzes as he lowered his head and seemed to have tunnel vision taking bad angles.   The former Hurricane is not overly fast to chase down a runner on the backside, as he uses more patience and is quite methodical.  He sometimes launches himself like a missile into the ball carrier, but the backer needs to make sure he is making contact with his shoulder pads first.

Pros: The undersized backer moves well sideline to sideline with good lateral agility.  He has a solid base, steps up to fill gaps and takes on blockers in the hole. Perryman can change directions quickly while remaining coiled ready to strike, and identifies where the ball is heading.  The defender works his way around the trash at the line of scrimmage, and keeps his hands out front ready to disengage from blockers while using good balance.  He is always looking for ways to separate the pigskin from the ball carrier whether he is cleaning up on a tackle or while the linebacker is chasing the play down the field.   Perryman is an intense, disciplined player who is a solid, wrap-up tackler even in the open field.  While he played both inside and outside linebacker in college, the defender is more suited for weak inside linebacker role in a 3-4 defense or a middle linebacker in a 4-3 defense so he can flow freely to the ball.  However, don’t underestimate his athleticism, which he showed with a somersault over the line of scrimmage to thwart a short yardage rushing attempt.

When defending against the pass, he can rush the quarterback, but does not have any moves to create space between him and the offensive line.  He made most of his sacks on delayed rushes, after he coming in unblocked.  When the backer can’t get into the pocket, he times his jumps well anticipating when to get his hands up to knock down passes.  Perryman does a good job following a signal caller’s eyes which tips him off to where a pass is getting targeted.   The defender can keep up with backs coming out of the flat and stays with them down the field.  He does a great job of not giving up on plays.  I also wouldn’t say Perryman was a natural catching the ball, but he can bat it around well and comes up with a few erroneous throws.

Overall thoughts: While he is short for a linebacker, Perryman has great anticipation and a motor that doesn’t quit.  He flows quickly to the ball and can shed blockers in his way.  There are a few more athletic defensive playmakers than he is, but he will be a steady no-nonsense fantasy IDP linebacker for the next several years.

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